Ross the Boss - New metal leader 4/5
2. Blood and knives
3. I got the right
4. Death & glory
5. Plague of lies
6. God of dying
7. May the gods be with you
8. Constantines sword
9. We will kill
11. Immortal son
Just like his successor in Manowar, David Shankle, Ross the Boss spent most of the 90s out of the metal scene and has now, a few years after Shankle, also made his return in the form of a self-titled band. The similarities end there, however. While Shankle spent his time away from metal bands refining his neo-classical shredding to an utterly absurd level of technicality, Ross was back playing in punk and hard rock outfits, apparently a lost cause.
Now, after a couple of brief onstage reunions with Manowar and a return to somewhat heavier climes in Brain Surgeons, he has issued a solo CD that sees him returning to his roots with an unexpected bang. Having always been one of the great underrated guitarists, the quality of his playing was never going to be in question, but it remained to be seen how good a batch of metal songs he could pen, especially after so long out of the game.
Having always been a secondary songwriter in Manowar after Joey DeMaio, it was always going to be interesting to hear the results of Ross penning a full CD on his own. The songs he has written (2 of which originally appeared on the most recent Brain Surgeons CD) have turned out to be a mix of rock-hard 80s metal with the odd bit of classic rock here and there. In fact, some may find a few of the cuts just a little too close to existing Manowar songs for comfort – the classic rock riff opening "Plague of lies" is very reminiscent of "Shell shock" and the centrepiece epic "God of dying" sounds, right down to the plucked bass intro, like an attempt to redo the classic "Battle hymn".
This lack of originality shouldn't be confused with a lack of quality however, as 'New metal leader' is packed with classy traditional metal efforts from start to finish, and the familiar-sounding songs are among the best. A few weaker moments along the way lower the quality overall, but as both a debut and a comeback CD it is a resounding success.
The band surrounding Ross are a trio of experienced German power metal musicians, and their instrumental talents should come as no surprise when it is considered that they played together in a Manowar tribute act with the guitarist before being upgraded to a proper band. Vocalist Patrick Fuchs is perhaps a slightly weak link - he certainly has a sturdy set of pipes and generally does a very good job on 'New metal leader', but on a few occasions his lack of range becomes a little apparent. His performance on "Constantine's sword", for instance, deflates the song a little – he is clearly trying to attempt a slightly different vocal style, but ends up just coming across as a little nasally and brings down what is an otherwise excellent cut.
The most unusual song on the CD, hands down, is "May the gods be with you", which, were it not for the distortion and gruff vocals, could be mistaken for something from Poison's early catalogue. I can only envisage the spontaneous vomiting that last sentence must have triggered in the more staunch true metal purists, but as a silly 80s rock song it is pretty entertaining if you have a tolerance for that sort of thing.
The rest of the CD is made of altogether tougher stuff, though. "Matador", brimming with exquisite solos, is built on the foundation of a pummelling main riff, while "We will kill" (with power, presumably) and "I got the right" are typically full-blooded metal anthems. For the speed freaks out there, the rampaging "Death & glory" should provide enough of a fix to hold them over for a CD that is mostly made up of heavy, midtempo numbers.
Ultimately, 'New metal leader' is, warts and all, an outstanding comeback from an often-overlooked legend. Walking over the top of both 'Gods of war' and DSG's 'Ashes to ashes' with ease, this could be just the thing Manowar fans sick of symphonic blare and neo-classical noodling are looking for. Joey DeMaio hasn't been writing this is the sort of music for nearly 25 years now, and Ross the Boss and his cohorts are more than welcome to it if they can keep the level of quality as high they the marker they have set with their debut.
MORE REVIEWS... FULL REVIEWS
MORE REVIEWS BY CREAG... CREAG